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Credit union name changes are in the air

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you’re a credit union customer, be prepared for a name change.

In the wake of announcements by two prominent local credit unions that they were changing their names and images, New Mexico Credit Union Association President Paul Stull predicts more of the institutions will follow suit in an attempt to attract business from a more diverse customer base.

“I do think we will see more name changes as they (credit unions) try to remove barriers to customers caused by perceptions,” Stull said.

Earlier this month,  the former New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union became “nusenda credit union,” a name created with help from a national firm The Branding Consultancy.

U.S. New Mexico Federal Credit Union also plans to change its name and will reveal its new identity on March 2.

Nationally, more than 230 credit unions changed names from 2006 through 2012, according to a study by The Financial Brand an online magazine that tracks financial trends.

Credit unions have typically aligned their names with geographic areas or a particular employment group tied to their membership origins. But the institutions don’t cut members off if they move or change jobs so they have increasingly included a wider demographic, Stull said.

A spokeswoman for nusenda said the name change decision was based on feedback from customers who said the old name implied only certain people could be members.

Many credit unions nationwide had similar reasons for changing their names, according to The Financial Brand. Some chose to drop credit union in favor of “financial”, thus Erie General Electric FCU became “Widget Financial.” Others used a verb, such as El Paso Employees, which transformed overnight into “Evolve.”

Nusenda’s launch provoked sarcastic comments on social media comparing the name to such things as pharmaceuticals and sweeteners. In 2007, members of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union were so incensed when it changed to Optiva that they held special meetings and forced it to return to the old name.

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